Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot by Capitol Police as she and other pro-Trump rioters tried to force their way deeper into the building Wednesday, appeared to consume a steady diet of heavily conspiratorial beliefs from all corners of the MAGA-verse.
Her Twitter account in particular shows her to be a major proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory. She eagerly amplified tweets about a November election replete with “fraud,” and appeared, in particular, to be a disciple of Lin Wood, a lawyer in President Donald Trump’s orbit who was permanently banned from Twitter Wednesday after encouraging the rioters to “fight for our freedom.”
Babbitt, a 35-year-old Californian and Air Force veteran, stood out in the largely male crowd that besieged the Capitol on Wednesday. But online, she fit right into these conspiracy theory tidepools.
Extremism journalists and observers have been marking the gender shift in QAnon adherence particularly this summer and fall, when COVID-19 lockdowns drove people inside and online, and stoked a general anxiety about the state of the world. QAnon, at its most extreme, asserts that prominent Democrats are pedophiles and Satanists, and that they will be executed during a last judgement-type event called “the storm.”
There are varying theories about why women have flocked to QAnon: Travis View, host of the podcast “QAnon Anonymous” has pointed out that the “soft front” of QAnon in the “save the children” campaign may be more attractive to women. Annie Kelly, an expert on digital culture, theorizes that QAnon may be more welcoming to women than conspiracy theories that have purity — often white, often male — at their center.
While Babbitt expressed belief in QAnon dozens of times on her Twitter account, she also appeared to ascribe to a constellation of conspiracy theories that tend to churn in the same communities. Babbitt’s final tweet captures some of that crossover: “Nothing will stop us….they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours….dark to light!” The explicit reference to the “storm” is textbook QAnon. But she and the rest of the pro-Trump mob was coming to D.C. in the first place to overturn an election they were convinced was stolen and illegitimate.
She recently retweeted calls for “rebellion” referring to not wearing a mask during the pandemic and “proof” from former National Security Adviser-turned-QAnon darling Michael Flynn that the November voting machines were connected to the internet and, thus, riggable.
She amplified many adoring tweets about Wood, including one theorizing that Wood was using his Twitter account to leak coded intelligence via tweets about Vice President Mike Pence deserving to be executed. Many of her recent retweets concern Pence being a traitor, including one that suggests Jeffrey Epstein was murdered because he had dirt on the Vice President. That theme follows Trump’s own behavior, as he has become increasingly infuriated with the Vice President for not exercising his power — power Pence does not actually have — to name him President for another term.
In late December, Babbitt responded angrily to a tweet from Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris about the incoming administration’s plans to distribute 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in their first 100 days.
“No the fuck you will not!” Babbit responded. “No masks, no you, no Biden the kid raper, no vaccines…sit your fraudulent ass down…we the ppl bitch!”
Many of her tweets actually express discontent with the Republican Party. In response to a tweet about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocking the $2,000 stimulus checks, she asserted that “D or R..y’all all have your dirty ass fingers in the same cookie jar,” ending her message with shorthand for the QAnon mantra “where we go one, we go all.”
Ultimately, that hostility to institutions and diehard loyalty to Trump drove her and thousands more to storm the Capitol, vandalize its offices and send lawmakers — including the first three people in the line of succession — into lockdown in fear of their lives.
Babbitt was shot in the neck when she reportedly tried to clamber through a broken window as the mob surged towards the House chamber in which members of Congress, staff and reporters were sheltering. They reported hearing gunshots and pounding on doors from inside the chamber. Some texted their family members goodbye.
But to the online conspiracy community in which she eagerly participated, Babbitt is already a hero.
They’ve been trying to get a hashtag trending and at least temporarily hijacked the Wikipedia page, mimicking the phrase used to raise up Black women murdered by police: #SayHerName.